Painful eye/eye held closed in dogs


  • Has your dog been blinking excessively, holding an eye shut, showing other signs of ocular pain?
  • There are many conditions that can cause painful eye(s), some more serious than others.
  • Contact your vet if you think your dog has an eye problem.
  • An urgent appointment will be necessary if your dog has signs of extreme pain such as being off their food, lethargic, or crying/screaming.

General information

If your dog has painful eye(s), they are likely to hold them closed, blink more than usual and become less active. If you notice any of these symptoms, book an appointment with your vet. Tell your vet about any other changes such as discharge, redness, cloudiness or loss of vision.

Dog holding right eye closed

If your dog has a painful eye, they're likely to hold it closed.


A painful eye can be caused by:

  • Eye injuries or trauma.
  • Something stuck in the eye - e.g. a grass seed or a dog’s claw!
  • An eye ulcer - a wound on the surface of the eye that causes pain, discharge, inflammation and redness.
  • An eye infection (conjunctivitis) - causing inflammation, itching and discharge.
  • Glaucoma - increased pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is extremely painful and causes eyes to become red, cloudy and bigger than normal.
  • Eyelash disorders - eyelashes growing in the wrong place or direction often cause redness, swelling, excessive blinking and pain.
  • Eyelid disorders - inward or outward turning eyelids can cause inflammation, pain and infections.
  • Something irritating - such as smoke, dust, sand, wind and chemicals.
  • An allergic reaction - often causes severe swelling around the eyes and in other parts of the body.
  • Uveitis - inflammation of structures inside the eye.

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet ASAP if you notice your dog blinking more than usual or think they may have painful eyes. Left untreated, the problem could become much worse. You know your dog best - contact your vet if you’re concerned.

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Published: January 2020

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.